Christian groups furious at Morrison’s support for LGBTIQA+ students

Christian groups have reacted angrily to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement that the federal government will be amending the Religious Discrimination Bill to add greater protections for LGBTIQA+ students.

The PM flagged a change to the government’s approach to the bill during a radio interview on Thursday. His announcement follows a Brisbane Christian college backing down on a proposal requiring all parents to sign a contract denouncing homosexuality and bisexuality as a destructive force against people and society.

Speaking to The Guardian, Greg Bondar (pictured) the spokesperson for Family Voice Australia said the Prime Minister had betrayed the foundation of the Religious Discrimination bill and had not upheld promises made by Attorney General Michaelia Cash.

“Scott Morrison has betrayed the foundation of the religious discrimination bill,” he said. “Morrison has fallen into the same trap as Bill Shorten in 2019, ignoring the voice of the Christian community.”

Bondar said Citipointe Christian College has made the wrong decision in withdrawing their contract and issuing an apology.

“This is a sad day for all Australians and particularly faith schools as it has put religious freedom and free speech at risk,” he said.

Lyle Shelton

Lyle Shelton, Communication Director of Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats, and former leader of the Australian Christian Lobby, said Morrison had started his Prime Minister-ship by speaking out against “gender whisperers”, but “Now he holds the gate open for them.”

Shelton said the Prime Minister had continually failed to stand up for Christians and had now thrown the Religious Discrimination Bill “under a bus”.

“I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. He didn’t stand up for Israel Folau or Margaret Court either.” Shelton said.

The Australian Christian Lobby previously told the Senate Committee on Constitution and Legal Affairs that they would withdraw their support for the Religious Discrimination Bill if the government added protections for LGBTQA+ students or teachers in the Sex Discrimination act.

Two separate parliamentary inquires will deliver their reports on the legislation tomorrow. The reports come after a series of rushed hearings on the legislation that were held in December and January.

Debate on the bill is expected to recommence when parliament returns next week. With only eleven sitting days scheduled for February, and an early budget expected in March, the government will be eager to push forward the legislation before Prime Minister Scott Morrison calls the date for the election.

Labor had maintained that they will not support the legislation while discrimination against LGBTIQA+ students was still possible, while the Greens oppose the bill in its entirety.

A poll released today showed that voters were opposed to many of the key elements of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

Equality Australia say they cautiously welcome the PM’s comments

Equality Australia, has cautiously welcomed comments by the Prime Minister foreshadowing amendments next week to better protect LGBTQ+ people in religious schools, but has called for the flawed Religious Discrimination Bill to be scrapped, warning that it will result in discrimination on a wider basis.

Equality Australia wart=n that the example of Citipointe Christian College could be repeated in many other areas of Australian life if the Religious Discrimination Bill is passed.

“The Prime Minister made a commitment in 2018 to remove the outdated carve-outs in national anti-discrimination laws which allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in religious schools. This reform is long overdue, and better protections must apply to both teachers and students”, said Ghassan Kassisieh, Legal Director at Equality Australia.

“But the Morrison Government’s Religious Discrimination Bill will invite exactly this type of practice in employment across faith-based organisations, from schools, aged-care services, emergency accommodation and hospitals.

“The Prime Minister may be putting out one small fire, but his Religious Discrimination Bill will unleash a firestorm of discrimination in religious organisations against anyone that holds a different belief from their faith-based employer – even when they can faithfully do the job that is required of them.”

Equality Australia say the Citipointe example highlights one of their key objections to the Religious Discrimination Bill, which allows religious organisations such as religious schools, hospitals, aged care and disability service providers to draw up contracts that require its teachers, doctors, nurses, aged care and other workers to sign away their own religious and non-religious beliefs in order to keep their jobs.

“We’re pleased that Citipointe Christian College has decided to withdraw its enrolment contract, which was completely out of step with the views of the Australian community. But it should never have come to this, and a community of students, parents and teachers have been deeply hurt in the process,” Kassisieh said.

“If the law had been clearer in prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, parents couldn’t have been asked to agree to outdated and offensive contracts just to keep their kids enrolled at a school.”

Equality Australia called on the Government to ensure that the passage of laws to protect LGBTQ+ students and teachers is not contingent on the passage of the Religious Discrimination Bill.

“Our laws should protect all of us, equally, regardless of who we are, what we believe or whom we love. But the Religious Discrimination Bill would instead be a step backwards, winding back hard-fought protections for women, people with disability and people of faith”, Kassisieh said.

“If the Prime Minister is serious about fulfilling his 2018 election commitment, he would end discrimination against LGBTQ+ students and staff in religious schools by delivering simple legislation to stop schools from firing, expelling or discriminating against them for who they are.

“And if his government is serious about protecting people of faith from discrimination, he must withdraw the Religious Discrimination Bill and do what he promised to do; deliver a simple reform that protects all of us, equally.”

Graeme Watson

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